Crush those cups!

We crushed your cups!  Kids from elementary schools around the country (Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey and More) colored on styrofoam cups.  We took them to the bottom of the ocean.  Click here to find out what happened!



What’s an internal wave?

You asked, we answer.  4th and 5th graders from Jefferson Elementary in Corvallis Oregon asked us questions about this research.  They even sent us videos, so we responded with a video of our own.  Click here to see what we have to say.


Do you like to dance?

Well we do!  We even put together a special video when the Scientists from the R/V Revelle finished their first 26 days at sea.  Click here to see us boogie – it’s becoming a youtube favorite!

Or do you like to sing?

Not only do we love math and science, we also love music.  The gang on the Falkor couldn’t resist to sing a tune during their final days of science. And Pete’s uncle wrote the music.  Click here to see the T-BEAMers sing!

T-Beam science crew enjoying the last sunset on the RV Falkor. Credit: Danielle Mitchell

T-Beam science crew enjoying the last sunset before heading back to shore

Questions from students:

Dylan, a student at Los Alamos Middle School asks Matthew:

“Dear Dr. Alford, I am very interested in the TTIDE project that you and your group is working on. I am wondering if you can tell me what your specifically working on with the TTIDE project, why you are interested in doing it, how your research fits into the rest of the project, and why did you and your team picked the Tasman Sea for the project. Thank you for your time to answer my question and I hope that we could talk more.”

Matthew Alford, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Matthew Alford, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Matthew writes back:

“Hi Dylan! So glad you are interested in our project. It’s a huge team effort between groups at many universities in two countries. We’ve all been really interested in the birth, lifetime and death of these big undersea waves, because where they break underwater matters a lot for our ability to predict climate change (such as sea level rise and global warming), and also because the breaking waves bring nutrients (think: algae food!) from the deep sea to nourish coastal ecosystems.

We wanted to do the experiment here because there is a huge “beam” of the waves coming from New Zealand to here. We’ve learned a lot about the birthplace of the waves (and New Zealand is a big spawning ground for them), how they travel across the sea (which we can observe from space and from our gliders) and now it’s time to learn how they plow into the continent of Tasmania.

For me, I specialize in moorings, so my contribution was to assist in the design, deployment and recovery of the 15 moorings that we put out earlier in this cruise. And personally, I surf, so it’s exciting for me to think of huge waves under the sea that travel across oceans and have to do with the climate and ecosystems. Others are taking the lead on more specialized shipboard instruments, seeing the waves from gliders (sea-sailing robots), from satellites, and once they get up into really shallow water.

-Matthew Alford, Professor at the University of California, San Diego”

 Alicia, a middle school student in Los Alamos asks Amy:

“Dear Dr. Waterhouse, How are you doing on your trip? I am writing in reference to the T-Tide Experiment. I would like to ask you some questions for my class assignment. For example, what are you specifically working on with the T-Tide Experiment? I also wanted to know why the rest of the crew members are interested in their part of the research project? The last question I would like to ask is how does the rest of the crew members research fit into the rest of the project? Thank you for your patience and time you took for reading this. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Amy Waterhouse

Amy Waterhouse / Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Amy responds:

“Hi Alicia, Thanks so much for being interested in our project looking at internal waves in the Tasman Sea.

I am currently the chief scientist on the research vessel Falkor and our job is to see if we can find the internal tide before it reaches the continental slope of Tasmania. The internal wave is generated just south of New Zealand, and then races across the Tasman Sea, and the breaks there or reflects on the continental slope of Tasmania. We are looking for the wave before it reaches Tasmania to get a ‘before’ snapshot — the scientists on the other ship, the Revelle, are look at the ‘after’ part of the problem.

On a day to day basis, I meet with the captain of the ship every morning to let them know our plan for the day, and they let us know how things are going with the weather and the ship. Depending on what the plan is for the day, after that we talk about science ideas/plans, set up and prepare instruments that we have onboard – like those that measure water velocity (ADCPs) and turbulence (using our “chi-pods”), and arrange operations with the Revelle if that is part of the plan. We have also been doing a lot of CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) profiles to measure CTD from the surface down to at least 2000m.

The other crew members have various interests. Pete Strutton, and his student Danielle, are looking at how the biology in the water is increased near these internal waves. They have been collecting water samples every morning and doing incubation studies on the back deck in a giant bath tub. Spencer Kawamoto has been our engineering expert – fixing any problems that come up with our instruments. Dmitry Brazhnikov has been running a model of the Tasman Sea to help us understand how our measurements in the ocean fit into what is happening outside of where we are making our measurements. Randall Lee is collecting water as the ship criss-crosses through the Tasman Sea to see if any of the water contains plastic. He is able to filter out tiny pieces of plastic from that water and these can be found throughout the world oceans.

I am interested in this project because the Tasman Sea gives us a chance to see these internal waves over their whole life cycle, from when they are generated (south of New Zealand) to when they “die” or lose their energy on the continental slope. And since the whole process happens in a confined area (the Tasman Sea) its almost like we can do the project in a bathtub, where the bathtub is the Tasman Sea. Internal waves are found everywhere in the ocean, so knowing where and how they lose their energy is really important for understanding how the mixing that they cause will impact the ocean, as a whole.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions,

Amy Waterhouse, a Project Scientist at the University of California, San Diego”

Paige, a middle school student in Los Alamos asks Jonathan:

“Dear Mr. Nash, I am writing in reference to your part of the research on the TTide experiment. I am greatly interested in the experiment and would like to ask you some questions about it. First, what are you specifically working on with the TTide project? Also, why are you interested in your part of the research project? Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing back from you.”


Jonathan Nash / Oregon State University

Jonathan responds:

“Hi Paige – Thanks for your interest in our project. I’m a “principal investigator” on the project, so that means that I was park of a team that came up with the idea for this experiment, and then decided what instruments and sampling we should do to understand how these huge undersea are breaking. As part of that group, I am using “T-chains” to measure the waves – these are mile-high strings of electronic gizmos that measure the temperature of the water, and from that, we can put together a super-detailed “picture” of what waves look like and how they break. These waves are breaking a mile beneath the ship – so it is really challenging to find ways of understanding them.

I’m interested in my part of the project because the dynamics of wave breaking affect the way life on our planet works. For example, when a wave breaks, it mixes the warm near-surface waters down deep, and brings colder, deeper waters up closer to the ocean surface. If these waves weren’t breaking the way they are, the ocean surface would be very very warm, and the subsurface waters (below a few feet) would be icy cold. This would greatly affect the earth’s climate.

In addition, nutrients are abundant in the deep waters but depleted near the surface where the light is available. If it wasn’t for mixing, many of this deep nutrition wouldn’t be available for aquatic plants to grow, so many aspects of the ocean’s marine life could be very different.

-Jonathan, Professor at Oregon State University, Corvallis Oregon”